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Average Word Length Dissertation

Thesis Word Length

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posted about 3 years ago

I know every thesis is different and school rules can vary drastically but I wanted to ask how long other PhD'ers thesis' are?! Mine is currently around the 130,000 word mark which was just - and only just - able to be bound. I've been given major corrections and my examiners want 2 extra chapters amongst other parts thrown in which I think will put the thesis up to at least 160,000 words. Many academics I've spoken to have agreed that this word count is far too big even for a PhD thesis.

What's even more annoying is that shortly after my viva, the school implemented a word limit of 80,000 words but because I submitted after this time the new rule doesn't apply to me. I'm pretty angry as it means that I technically will be writing double the word limit to get my PhD.

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated!

17-Feb-15, 18:05

edited about 29 seconds later

posted about 3 years ago

80-100,000 words is the typical limit. It's odd that your institution has only just brought one in. Unfortunately it sounds as though you are stuck with what you have - I don't think you can remove stuff post-viva unless your examiners ask you to.

Length will vary according to subject area - one can write a far shorter maths thesis than a history one, for example. Here's an analysis of average thesis length by subject area, from a US university:


posted about 3 years ago

I was a history PhD student and my department expected 80-100K. I was doing needle in a haystack research, and couldn't even reach the lower limit. But I was told 70K would be ok, so long as the quality was there. My supervisor said examiners always prefer quality over quantity. I made it look a bit more bulky via an electronic appendix on CD.

My husband's computer science PhD was more like 45K.

If your examiners have passed your PhD thesis and want extra chapters without cuts, then do exactly what they say. But I think you are fortunate not to have been asked to remove big chunks.

posted about 3 years ago

And to be blunt you didn't need to write that much. You chose to. And you've written it now. You only have to write two new chapters, not the rest of the words that are already there. So do what your examiners want, and get your PhD. But in future beware that if you continue in academia you will probably have to write more succinctly. Journal papers in particular - which working academics have to churn out - have very tight word limits. Journal editors will not be as kind as your examiners.

18-Feb-15, 14:48

by Eds

posted about 3 years ago

It's mildly bizarre (and bizarre in itself) that not only did your institution not have a word limit in statu, but that no-one nticed or stopped you when you were going clearly over the (albeit unwritten) norm? Did you have no supervision or just not mention it at the time?

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